*Trigger Warning: self-harm, depression, anxiety*
I sat down on the carpet and pulled the coffee table up close. Picking my supplies up off the floor next to me, I placed them on top of the paper towels; it wasn’t until later that I discovered I needed another layer, or maybe just different paper towels. I stared at the bottles of nail polish with a sense of anxious excitement that I hadn’t felt in a long time.
Of course no one noticed my awkwardly painted nails, or maybe they did and just didn’t care. But to me, they meant so much more than I could explain at the time. They were small symbols of a rebellious femininity I refused to acknowledge for decades.
The good thing about nail polish is its impermanence, the way it fades as it meets the realities of day-to-day living. It feels more suited to my hands after it’s started to chip – more raw and honest. However, when I started this transition – from adolescent to adult, from living a lie to unapologetic authenticity, from intensely hating my body to passionately loving myself – I chose a much more permanent symbol.
I never wanted tattoos as a kid. I remember asking my dad why he had one on his shoulder if the church didn’t allow them, and his explanations always involved the word “mistake.” The shame in his voice was palpable, a reminder of the divine laws and eternal consequences for how we use our bodies.
Despite the teachings of my childhood, I no longer felt the same way about my body. Maybe it’s more appropriate to say that I finally felt in control of my body after I came out. I finally started to love my body and myself, and that made all the difference. After more than seven years of self-harm, I resolved to treat my body the opposite way I was taught to treat it.
In other words, I was not going to force harm upon it anymore, especially not through self-injury.
It was an important moment for me. It was two and a half months later than my one year mark, but at least I followed through (something that seldom happened for 19 year-old me). I felt like the June bugs from my childhood, leaving behind a shell that I had finally outgrown. But it was more than that; it was a triumph I never thought I would achieve during the first six-months of my year long battle. I was celebrating overcoming an intense bout of depression, anxiety, and seven years of self-harm.